A Catholic couple in Peoria, Illinois, is asking for the intercession of hometown hero Ven. Fulton Sheen to save the life of their unborn son.
Royce and Elise Hood, parents of six children including one in utero, recently discovered that their unborn son Fulton Joseph had Potter syndrome. It is a rare condition where, due to a lack of amniotic fluid, the baby’s kidneys and lungs might not develop fully or at all.
At the Hood’s 20-week ultrasound appointment, their doctor informed them of the news and said there was a 95% chance their baby would not survive after birth.
Three days later, the family went and prayed at Sheen’s tomb in Peoria, asking for a miracle.
Sheen was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria at age 24 before being appointed auxiliary bishop of New York in 1951 and Bishop of Rochester, New York, in 1966. He was a popular television catechist and author in the 1950s and 60s before his death in 1979.
Sheen’s cause for canonization was opened in 2002 by the Peoria diocese. In 2019, Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to Sheen’s intercession, allowing for his beatification.
However, Sheen’s beatification was postponed shortly before it was scheduled to take place and no date has been set.
Elise Hood said that she was “overcome” with peace while praying at Sheen’s tomb for her baby, asking for him to intercede for a second miracle.
“When we were there and praying, we both felt such a sense of peace, and we were just really overcome by that,” Elise said in an interview on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly that will air on Thursday night.
After later learning their baby was a boy, the Hoods named him Fulton Joseph, after Sheen. The family quickly learned that there were no “viable medical options” for their son—nothing to do, except pray.
“The only decision that we made was how are we going to face this cross together as a family?” Royce recalled on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly. “We made a very difficult and prayerful decision to surround Fulton with as much joy and love as we possibly can.”
Fulton, due to be born at the end of March, currently weighs just more than two pounds. The family is providing updates on his story at the website FultonJoseph.com, including a song that Royce composed using Fulton’s heartbeat as a metronome.
Babies diagnosed with Potter syndrome normally do not survive because the condition often inhibits the growth of their organs, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
It is unclear how many abortions are conducted after a prenatal diagnosis of Potter syndrome. NIH states that “If the underlying cause of Potter sequence is determined to have a poor long-term outlook, some parents decide not to perform extreme life-saving measures.”
Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) wrote in the Wall Street Journal in 2019 that she and her husband received the diagnosis for their unborn child in 2013, and their doctor informed them that women often choose abortion in such situations. Beutler said that treatments on her unborn daughter ultimately proved successful and that she is alive today.
Elise Hood said that placing her pregnancy in God’s hands gave her peace.
“When I finally surrendered everything to God, I was just overcome with so much peace, which has allowed me to really enjoy the pregnancy, and really enjoy every moment with Fulton,” she told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.
And the couple hopes that their story might inspire other couples to choose life.
“If we can help anybody else or inspire anyone else to just put all their trust in God, through her story and through our little Fulton, then we’d be so grateful,” Elise said.
Weeks before Sheen’s beatification was scheduled to take place in December, 2019, the bishop of Rochester asked that it be postponed to allow for more time for his cause to be examined.
The request was reportedly due to concerns that Sheen might be named in an ongoing state investigation into New York’s Catholic dioceses. The investigation by the state attorney general’s office, which is still ongoing, is focusing on allegations that the dioceses failed to protect sex abuse victims and covered up clergy sex abuse.